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Paramount agrees merger with QVC

Trading in shares of Paramount Communications was halted yesterday ahead of an announcement by the board that it had reached a dollars 10.2bn merger agreement with QVC Network, the US home-shopping cable channel.

The Paramount board had earlier agreed to merge with Viacom, another cable company, but was forced to abandon the deal because of complaints about the directors' handling of negotiations.

Analysts noted that, under the new bidding procedure, QVC must keep its tender offer open for 10 days. Viacom is thus still free to increase its offer, and is reportedly prepared to do so.

BA deal extended

The US has extended to 17 March its approval of an agreement between USAir and British Airways ahead of further talks by the US and British governments on a new aviation pact. The two airlines' code sharing agreement would have ended on 14 January, four days ahead of scheduled talks between the two countries.

dollars 65m for Russian fund

The Framlington Russian Investment Fund has raised dollars 65m, dollars 15m more than its target, following strong demand from US investors. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development subscribed dollars 16.6m and part of the World Bank put in dollars 8m.

Brewery sale

The Swiss brewery Brauerei Haldengut of Winterthur said it and Heineken had concluded an agreement under which the Dutch brewer would acquire 52.3 per cent of its capital stock.

Vietnam gold venture

The Indian government plans to form a joint venture with France to mine gold in Vietnam.

Irish Life buys

Irish Life is paying pounds 23.5m to buy City of Westminster Assurance, the life assurance arm of AGF Holdings (UK). The acquisition will be funded from the company's internal resources.

Canadian move

John Crow, Governor of the Bank of Canada, is retiring after seven years in office. He will be replaced from 1 February by Gordon Thiessen, presently senior deputy governor. Mr Thiessen, who has been at the Bank of Canada for 30 years, worked hand in hand with Mr Crow to develop the tight monetary policies that gave Canada one of the lowest inflation rates among leading industrial nations.

Pounds 72m for Lloyd's

Masthead Insurance Underwriting has allocated pounds 72m to syndicates in the Lloyd's of London insurance market for the 1994 underwriting year and secured capacity on 25 syndicates. Masthead is one of several companies set up to take advantage of a change in Lloyd's rules allowing corporate investment.

Deficit forecast down

Leon Panetta, the White House budget director, said the Clinton administration expected the budget deficit for the fiscal year to 1995 to be in the vicinity of dollars 190bn. Mr Panetta said the figure compared with a projected deficit at the start of this year of dollars 302bn for 1995.

World Markets

New York: A rally in the bond market spurred a 17.04-point advance in the Dow Jones Industrial Average to 3,762.19 by the close.

Tokyo: Index-linked buying lifted the Nikkei average 130.31 points to 17,445.74.

Hong Kong: The return of overseas institutions reversed Tuesday's decline, taking the Hang Seng up 183.68 to 10,707.96.

Sydney: Profit-taking in active trade lowered the All Ordinaries index 13.8 points to 2,053.2.

Johannesburg: Gold shares declined on bullion weakness, but with industrials strong the index gained four points to 4,612.

Frankfurt: Positive sentiment boosted the DAX index 14.58 points to 2,197.51, another record.

Paris: Resuming its upward trend, the CAC-40 collected 9.93 points to close at 2,225.79.

Zurich: The favourable outlook for interest rates helped the SPI to 1,853.85, up 14.16 points.

Milan: The bullish trend continued on expectations that next year's budget would be approved.

London: Report, page 30.